Thursday Showdown – PIT @ CLE – Hunter’s Corner

This week we get week 11 started with the divisional rivals Steelers taking on the Browns.

My name is Hunter Sinclair and I occasionally write about showdowns and game breakdowns for the main slate in the Slack channels. I have had a long history with DFS for football going back to the very beginning with Kevin the Football Geek.  If you were around back then you might remember me from Hunter’s Corner where I used to do heavy defense breakdowns, matchup analysis and various other write-ups.  In this article I’ll break down how how I personally approach attacking these showdown games using this weeks game as an example.

Additionally, @Burns273 and I have been doing a pod for the DFSArmy called the “Off-Chalk Pod” where Burns and I go through the main slate and breakdown how we see each game playing out and which off-chalk (lower owned) plays are our favorite and which ones are most likely to pay off in GPP contests.  This is a GPP tournament focused pod as both Burns and I have chased and been successful with getting Live Final qualifier tickets over the last several years.  The plays and methods we use are also relevant for playing in most of the regular GPP tournaments as well.

So How Does Showdown/Single Game work?

If you want more detail on this – checkout @DFSUpNorth’s articles as he goes into much more detail on Showdown lineup construction.

Each site runs their contests a bit different but for the most part they are very similar. You pick 6 players from the game (5 on Fanduel), and choose one to be your Captain (MVP on Fanduel) and that person scores 1.5x points than everyone else.

On Draftkings you can play QB, RB, WR, TE, K, and DEF while on Fanduel you can play QB, RB, WR, TE, K but no Defense.

Scoring is the same as normal NFL DFS contests. On DraftKings there is a full point for PPR and that makes pass catchers more valuable while you only get a half point on FanDuel.

You need at least one player from each team on your roster. So you can’t just load up all on one team. Optimally I like to build with 4 of one team and 2 of the other on DraftKings and 3 of one team and 2 of the other on Fanduel, though 4-1 seems to be pretty solid there as well.

Looking for a podcast to listen to on your way to work or while mowing the lawn? Check out our Podcast Page for some great listens from @ffootballgeek and other coaches.

Join the DFS Army Today and gain access to the best content/tools/projections/coaching in the industry!

Game Breakdown:

The approach I take with every showdown I play is to come up with what I think it the most likely scenario to play out on the field for that game.  In order to do this I need to consider a lot of variables and then make my best educated guess of what I think all that means.  I will try and break it down in slightly more simplified version for everyone below.  We talk about doing this a lot (although maybe not exactly how I approach it with applying the theory to the projections), but we do preach about making your lineups “tell a story”.  It’s like those old “Choose your own adventure” novels you might have read when you were a kid.  You fill in the blanks, make choices along the way and in the end the story and ending can be completely different based on all those small incremental choices.  So let’s choose our adventure for this game…

One way that I breakdown rosters is through our Research Station. We will have a stand alone research station for the Thursday games this year, which I’m pumped about, check it out here! –> Showdown/Single Game Research Station

Want to try a free month of DFS Army VIP Membership? See How

Stats for this game:

I start by looking at the specific team matchup, the vegas line, O/U, and recently I have been using the Power Rankings that @statsational puts out each week for everyone to see under the Beat The Bookie NFL section.  This is where I start, and where pretty much every DFS player starts.  Let’s be honest – I don’t think there are many DFS players out there who are not at least using Vegas Lines, O/U, and DVP rankings to determine who they will play in games.

Anyhow, I get a first read on the game this way and for this game you can see on the surface that CLE is a slight favorite -2.5 at home in what should be a pretty low scoring game 40 O/U.   CLE has not been great at stopping the run this year but recently improved against limiting rushing yards, but pretty decent at pass defense.  On the other side PIT have been fairly elite vs the pass (only giving up 1 20+ fantasy point game this year to a WR (lockett I think) and not bad vs run and their pass rush/CB coverage is pretty good and have been really pretty good on pass protection allowing a league-low sack rate.

A couple injury notes to consider: Pro Bowl DE – O. Vernon is out, and DB E. Murray is out again.  The TE RSJ is a GTD.  Vernon out may help the RBs in PIT and if RSJ plays he is worth a speculative play in a lineup or two since he can catch some long passes for TD and PIT hasn’t been as great vs the TE.

LATE INJURY UPDATE:  Callaway has been dropped by the Browns – this puts Higgins squarely in play as the #3 WRs.

Once I have a general idea of what the teams are best/worst at and how to attack each side, I start to dig a bit deeper.  What I am looking for are anomalies or indicators where there is some match in opposing skills (like if one team sucks at protecting the QB and the other team is racking up the sacks).   One anomaly is that while CLE has been better than average at limiting rushing yards they are giving up the 9th most points to the RB position, this tells me they are giving those up to TDs and/or passing plays to RBs.

Here are Stats for this game that I specifically looked at in considering my scenarios – these are adjusted for the matchup against each other:

Snaps 63.0 Snaps 60.0
TDs 2.2 TDs 2.6
FGs 1.9 FGs 2.2
Punts 3.9 Punts 4.1
TOs 2.5 TOs 1.3
Rush 26.0 Rush 26.0
Pass 35.0 Pass 32.0
Pass % 57.4% Pass % 55.2%
Comp % 62.5% Comp % 65.2%
RY/Play 4.6 RY/Play 4.4
PassTDs 1.4 PassTDs 1.7
RushTDs 0.8 RushTDs 0.7
PassYPer 10.6 PassYPer 10.2

Then I look at what these teams do both offensively and defensively for the below stats and take an average between the offensive and defensive stats to come up with a projection for each of these:

Hurries 42 47
ADOT 7.6 7.4
Drive w/Scores 32.1% 33.7%
Drive w/TO 15.1% 12.5%
passTD/rushTDs 9/9 12/5
Sack % 7.4% 3.5%
Int % 3.8% 2.3%
Pressure 24.8% 30.3%
TO% 8.5% 23.8%
Sacks per game 2.9 3.7
Hurries 11.1% 12.3%
Drives w/Score allowed 34.0% 30.5%

All these stats above help me to form a picture of how I might see the game playing out.  How many TDs, Field Goals, Punts, Turnovers, etc are each team likely to have.  All these individual parts are important for showdowns since we want to know how much we can expect from a kicker or defense in addition to the other skill players.

Here are the projections I am coming up with for the general game outcome for each team based on the above:

For tonights game I have a come up with a few scenarios of what might happen, there are plenty more you could come up with on your own using this same method and information, but these are what I am using for my lineups.  Below is the description of each, why I think it might happen that way, and if it does what the projections for players might be in that case.


Before I jump into the Scenarios, I want to highlight a very important aspect to doing these scenarios.  If you are interested in playing a turd in your lineup like a guy that may only get 1-2 catches and a touchdown then you should adjust the other players from the same team to compensate.  Here is an example.  Let’s say we want to run Higgins or RSJ in our lineup and we are projecting CLE to score a total of 2 TDs and 1 of those coming by way of pass and 1 by rush.  So, in order for Higgins or RSJ to be in the Nuts he has to either get the lone TD or like 4+ catches.  It is more likely that they get a 40+yard pass for a TD vs getting a ton of targets unless there is an injury.  If he gets 1 catch for 40-50y and a TD then that is 11-13pts.  That is enough to be in the nuts.  So if Higgins or RSJ gets the TD then we need to adjust projections for other receivers which means ODB, Landry and Hunt, etc don’t get a receiving TD and have to get points on volume and yards instead.  Then we have the single rushing TD between either Chubb or Hunt or Mayfield (by rushing Chubb is the highest likelyhood at maybe 70-80% over the others).  What this means is that our projections for these guys may come down enough for a guys on PIT like Dionte or Washington to be the better play over Landry or ODB.


Based on my normal projections I have the Steelers winning by 7. (See above) . Which is due mainly to their Defense I think being superior to CLE and causing more TOs (3) vs (1) by CLE.  This does not align with Vegas – so take it or leave it.  I feel like the Vegas line is overly influenced by the general public and some mis-guided view that Cleveland is a cohesive team rather than just a bunch of individual talents.

I expect the 3 TDs by PIT to either come by 2 passing TDs and 1 Rushing TD or possibly 1 DST TD and 1 pass and 1 rush….but since I don’t predict DST TDs then lets stick with 2 by Pass.

I am projecting about a 70/30 split for the RB where conner gets the bulk of carried at about 17 and 3-4 targets and Samuels gets a handful of carries and 7-8 targets – basically closer to how it was earlier in season when both played healthy together.  This means they are projected to score very similarly on DK but Conner with bigger edge on FD.  I added SuperDraft numbers also incase you play there.  Remember what I said about playing scrubs.  make your lineups make sense.  If you play Higgins and also ODB you better have Mayfield in your lineup and maybe reduce points for Chubb/Hunt since you are basically banking on the TDs all coming from the pass.

Player MyDKProj CAPT FDProj FD_CPT SD multi SD Proj
James Conner 18.7 28.1 17.2 25.8 1 18.7
Jaylen Samuels 17.2 25.8 14.2 21.3 1.6 27.5
Nick Chubb 16.2 24.4 15.2 22.9 1.1 17.9
Mason Rudolph 15.8 23.7 15.8 23.7 1.6 25.3
Kareem Hunt 14.0 21.0 11.0 16.5 2 28.0
Jarvis Landry 13.6 20.4 11.1 16.6 1.75 23.8
Baker Mayfield 12.6 18.9 12.6 18.9 1.35 17.0
JuJu Smith-Schuster 12.0 18.0 10.0 15.0 1.5 18.0
Odell Beckham Jr 10.8 16.3 8.8 13.3 1.4 15.2
Pittsburgh Steelers 10.0 15.0 10.0 15.0 0.0
James Washington 9.6 14.4 8.1 12.2 2.35 22.6
Chris Boswell 9.0 13.5 9.0 13.5 2.05 18.5
Diontae Johnson 8.6 12.9 7.1 10.7 2.4 20.7
Austin Seibert 8.0 12.0 8.0 12.0 2.45 19.6
Rashard Higgins 6.5 9.8 5.0 7.5 2.65 17.2
Vance McDonald 5.9 8.8 4.9 7.3 2.75 16.2
Demetrius Harris 5.2 7.8 4.2 6.3 2.75 14.2
Ricky Seals-Jones 4.0 6.0 3.0 4.5 2.5 10.0
Cleveland Browns 3.0 4.5 3.0 4.5 0.0


I call this one “It’s a turd’s day in Paradise.”

I adjust projection to put Higgins into the nuts by bumping the expectations to 1 TD and 50yards and 2 catches.  You can use these exact same numbers and just put Higgin’s points on RSJ or D. Harris or some other turd if you want to run one with each turd.  Here is what it looks like:


Player MyDKProj CAPT FDProj CAPT
James Conner 18.7 28.1 17.2 25.8
Jaylen Samuels 17.2 25.8 14.2 21.3
Mason Rudolph 15.8 23.7 15.8 23.7
Nick Chubb 15.7 23.6 14.7 22.1
Kareem Hunt 13.2 19.9 10.2 15.4
Rashard Higgins 13.0 19.5 12.0 18.0
Baker Mayfield 12.6 18.9 12.6 18.9
Jarvis Landry 12.2 18.4 9.7 14.6
JuJu Smith-Schuster 12.0 18.0 10.0 15.0
Pittsburgh Steelers 10.0 15.0 10.0 15.0
Odell Beckham Jr 9.6 14.5 7.6 11.5
James Washington 9.6 14.4 8.1 12.2
Chris Boswell 9.0 13.5 9.0 13.5
Diontae Johnson 8.6 12.9 7.1 10.7
Austin Seibert 8.0 12.0 8.0 12.0
Vance McDonald 5.9 8.8 4.9 7.3
Demetrius Harris 3.8 5.8 2.8 4.3
Cleveland Browns 3.0 4.5 3.0 4.5
Ricky Seals-Jones 2.6 3.9 2.1 3.2


Lets name this last scenario “Ohhhdell Beck-goin-HAM “

This is the scenario where we expect ODB to do ODB stuff and break a slant for 80 and a TD or some other craziness as he tends to do sometimes.  We will assume this take the place of maybe one of the FGs instead so lets bump up the projections for CLE to 3 TDs vs 2.  Maybe we can also project that CLE def does a bit better with 1-2 more sacks and another fumble TO.  So we will reduce PIT score by 1 passing TD and add the extra TO:


Player MyDKProj CAPT FDProj CAPT
Odell Beckham Jr 24.4 36.6 18.9 28.3
Baker Mayfield 18.5 27.7 18.5 27.7
James Conner 18.1 27.2 16.6 24.9
Nick Chubb 16.3 24.5 15.3 23.0
Jaylen Samuels 16.0 24.0 13.0 19.5
Jarvis Landry 14.6 22.0 12.1 18.2
Kareem Hunt 12.7 19.1 10.2 15.4
Mason Rudolph 11.8 17.7 11.8 17.7
JuJu Smith-Schuster 10.8 16.2 8.8 13.2
James Washington 9.0 13.5 7.5 11.3
Cleveland Browns 8.0 12.0 8.0 12.0
Chris Boswell 8.0 12.0 8.0 12.0
Diontae Johnson 7.8 11.7 6.3 9.5
Austin Seibert 6.0 9.0 6.0 9.0
Pittsburgh Steelers 6.0 9.0 6.0 9.0
Vance McDonald 4.7 7.0 3.7 5.5
Demetrius Harris 4.4 6.7 3.4 5.2
Ricky Seals-Jones 3.2 4.8 2.7 4.1
Rashard Higgins 3.0 4.5 4.5 6.8

Put Projections into Action:

So Hunter, How do I make a lineup based on these projections you might be asking?

Well you can take a few approaches, but what I do is to enter my projections directly into the Domination Station.  If you are using the DomStation – you can plug in those numbers directly overwriting the projections in there and generate your lineups using the new projections. It would be very hard to run too many scenarios if you were only doing like 20 lineups so you probably would want to pick a single scenario in that case and just go all-in on it to maximize you chance of hitting the nuts lineup. But if you run 150 then you could pick all fours scenarios and run 25% of each if you wanted – or come up with your own scenarios.  In 20 lineups I might run all 4 scenarios and pick the top lineup from DS from each and then run the other 17 lineups using the scenario I like the best.

Another approach is just to use this method to tweak the DFSArmy Projections up / down using to more closely align with your scenario projections.  That might mean removing players from your pool completely or essentially fading a high priced guy by dropping his projection a lot lower.

Or finally you could just go to DraftKings and enter a lineup manually.  Start at the top of your projections list, pick the guy out front for your captain and play around with fitting as many of the high scoring projection as you can into a single lineup.


Final Thoughts:

So now you have a few possible scenario outcomes you can think about when you play this game.  There are countless other ways this could go, but what I like to do each week is try to determine the most likely to happen outcomes for the game and then divi up the targets, runs, yardage, TDs based on all the factors I discussed above and that is where I come up with the projections. Best of Luck Army….

–Hunter’s Corner

Sports betting is legal in the US! It’s been a long time coming, but we’re so pumped for it that we created our own division here at DFSArmy called ‘Beat the Bookie’. These guys are crushing it on the daily and you’re gonna want in! Tell em’ @huntersinclair sent ya and you’ll get 10% off for life!

Want to try a free month of DFS Army VIP Membership? See How